Politics & Gender

Research Article

Walking Together, but in Which Direction? Gender Discrimination and Multicultural Practices in Oaxaca, Mexico

Michael S. Danielsona1 and Todd A. Eisenstadta1

a1 American University


This article partly confirms the long-held view that multiculturalism discriminates against women. Indeed, for a majority of cases where multicultural electoral practices were recently recognized in our Oaxaca, Mexico survey sample, women did not participate in elections. However, female respondent participation in leader selection in multicultural communities was actually found to be higher in the few communities where locally established multicultural norms allowed women to serve in leadership roles. We find that while multicultural norms are often—or even usually—discriminatory, ascription to communal norms may actually encourage the participation of women in the few cases where these locally generated norms do not disenfranchise them. We conclude that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, multiculturalism that adheres to universal suffrage and human rights may not be normatively adverse to women's rights, and we argue for “conditional multiculturalism,” that is, recognition of multicultural norms but only if and when these adhere to broadly accepted human rights norms.

Michael S. Danielson is a doctoral student in comparative politics, American politics and international relations at American University. He holds an MA in International Policy Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and Spanish and Philosophy degrees from Santa Clara University. Danielson studies subnational politics, migration, gender and social movements in the Americas.

Todd A. Eisenstadt is Associate Professor of Government in the School of Public Affairs at American University. He is the author of Courting Democracy in Mexico (Cambridge University Press 2004) and has authored and/or edited four other books. He has articles published or forthcoming in journals including Comparative Political Studies, Latin American Politics and Society, Democratization, Party Politics and the Latin American Research Review. A recipient of Fulbright and National Security Education Program “Boren” fellowships, his research has also been funded by Ford and Mellon foundations. Eisenstadt has been a visiting scholar at the El Colegio de México in Mexico City, Harvard University's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, the Japan Institute for International Affairs in Tokyo, and the University of California, San Diego's Center for US-Mexican Studies. Professor Eisenstadt studies democratization, identity and social movements, public opinion, political parties, and election finance, principally in Latin America. He is completing a manuscript, Surveying the Silence: Liberal and Communal Identities in Southern Mexico's Indigenous Rights Movement, based on a large survey he directed to compare indigenous and non-indigenous attitudes in southern Mexico.


The authors thank Ruth Lane, Brian Schaffner, Erica Williams, Jaime Bailón Corres, José Antonio Lucero, Viridiana Ríos Contreras, and Donna Lee Van Cott and the anonymous reviewers at Politics & Gender for helpful comments, suggestions, and criticisms.